The time is now for the Dallas Stars to buckle down and figure out if they’re playoff contenders or pretenders and the St. Louis Blues will do whatever they can to keep them down at home tonight (7:30 p.m. ET).
The Stars have been besieged by injuries of late. A MCL problem has Mike Ribeiro on the shelf until after the All-Star Game while Jamie Benn is out of action for at least that long after having his appendix removed. That’s two of Dallas’ top four scorers meaning defense and goaltending are going to have to lead the way. Coach Glen Gulutzan has his hands full in keeping the Stars focused on the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the offensive production will have to come from Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder, Brenden Morrow, and Steve Ott. Ryder’s been a pleasant surprise and Eriksson is always good, but it’s a tall order to do it without their playmakers.
If there’s an upside to dealing with the Blues, it’s that you don’t have to score a ton of goals to hang in games with them.
The Blues have risen to the top of both the Central Division and Western Conference thanks to a renewed commitment to defense thanks to new head coach, and former Stars coach, Ken Hitchcock. Getting stellar goaltending from both Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak doesn’t hurt either. The Blues roll into tonight’s game winners of five of their last six.
Sure the Blues aren’t scoring a ton of goals, but they’re getting them from a lot of different guys. Six different Blues have double-digit goals and six different guys have 20 or more points on the season. While one of them is out in Alex Steen, guys like David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Jason Arnott, and Kevin Shattenkirk have picked things up from both the forward and defense positions.
They’ll have to get pucks past Kari Lehtonen tonight to keep winning and keep pace with Chicago and Detroit in the Central. Doing it against a Dallas team that knows their up against it starting tonight means the Blues will have to be especially sharp to win.
The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.
Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.
Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.
A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.
Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.
While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.
“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”
Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.
One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.
Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley
Viktor Arvidsson has cashed in on his impressive, breakout 2016-17 campaign.
Playing in the final year of his entry-level contract — and making $640,000 in total salary, according to CapFriendly — the 5-foot-9 tall Arvidsson erupted for 31 goals and 61 points playing on the top line last season for a Nashville Predators team that eventually made its way to the Stanley Cup Final.
The two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday.
From The Tennessean:
Viktor Arvidsson received a new contract Saturday befitting a breakout star, with the Predators signing the energetic forward to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract, Arvidsson’s agent told The Tennessean.
Few unheralded NHL players last season surprised more than Arvidsson. Expected to be a secondary contributor, Arvidsson erupted offensively with 31 goals and 61 points as part of Nashville’s top line, tying for the team lead in each category.
Update: The Predators have since confirmed the deal, which pays Arvidsson an annual average value of $4.25 million per season, through the 2023-24 season.
Nashville’s general manager David Poile has work remaining this offseason. The Predators still have restricted free agents Ryan Johansen — another member of that vaunted top line in Nashville — and Austin Watson left to get under contract.
Watson and the Predators have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday. Watson is reportedly seeking $1.4 million in arbitration.
The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalies Jon Gillies and David Rittich to one-year, two-way contracts, the club announced Saturday.
Both spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League, but did get in some game action with the big club in Calgary. The 23-year-old Gillies, the Flames’ third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 39 games with the Stockton Heat, posting a .910 save percentage.
He then made his first career NHL start on April 6 against the L.A. Kings and stopped 27 of 28 shots faced for the win. He then began the playoffs as Calgary’s back-up because of an injury to Chad Johnson.
Rittich made his debut two days later, allowing one goal on 10 shots in 20 minutes of ice time versus San Jose.
The Flames have already taken care of their goaltending situation at the NHL level for next season, bringing in Mike Smith from Arizona and Eddie Lack from Carolina.
The Carolina Hurricanes may have a potential new owner in Chuck Greenberg, the former CEO of the MLB Texas Rangers who also had interest in the NHL’s Dallas Stars.
A report Friday goes into further details about Greenberg’s motivation in purchasing the Hurricanes from Peter Karmanos, who has been exploring a sale of the team for quite some time now.
Previous reports indicate the agreement between the Hurricanes and Greenberg would keep the club in Raleigh, amid ages of speculation it may be a candidate for possible relocation to markets like Seattle or Quebec City.
From the Raleigh News and Observer:
Interviews with people close to Greenberg and others who have knowledge of the proposed purchase but requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks paint a picture of a front man who would be deeply concerned with the fan experience and revitalizing Raleigh as a hockey market, but lacking the money to fund the purchase himself and reliant on a group of investors to get the deal done.
If the deal goes through, at a reported price of $500 million that likely includes a large amount of assumed debt while valuing the actual franchise closer to $300 million, Greenberg would move to Raleigh with the intention of making the team work here. That’s what Hurricanes fans long afraid of a move to Quebec City or Seattle during these years of ownership uncertainty as Karmanos has had the team on the market have been hoping to hear.
The Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006 but haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. Despite their postseason drought, Carolina is building quite a depth of young talent, most notably on defense. They could take another positive step forward next season, perhaps contending for a playoff spot. In a bid to bolster their goaltending situation, the Hurricanes also acquired
and then signed
former Chicago No. 2 netminder Scott Darling